Category: Lawn & Garden


The Dos and Don’ts of Setting a Fence Post

A well-constructed fence can protect privacy, define your property, and enhance curb appeal. But before you decide to put one up yourself, learn how to set your fence posts properly to ensure that your posts—and your entire fence—will enjoy a long, sturdy life.

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Setting Fence Posts

Photo: dreamstime.com

It’s a bona fide do-it-yourself classic: Every summer without fail, legions of homeowners grab their toolbox and head outdoors to erect a wood fence. Putting up a fence is a substantial, satisfying project, and particularly if you’re relying on a kit, an eminently doable one. And if you’re fortunate enough to have level terrain to work with, there’s really just one tricky step—setting the posts. As they say, a fence is only as strong as its posts. If they fail, the rest of the fence will follow suit, so it’s crucial to devote special care to setting them properly. Anything less, and you run the risk of having to set the fence posts all over again in only a few years’ time. The good news? Setting a fence post doesn’t require uncommon skills or expensive tools, and doing it right doesn’t really take much longer than doing it the slapdash way. Whether your goal is privacy, a better-defined property line, or simply a beautiful addition to your yard, a fence can fit the bill. But to ensure pleasing, long-lasting results, you’ll need to keep a few select considerations in mind and avoid a handful of potential pitfalls. Read on for the full details.

DO Select the Right Type of Wood
Remember that different types of wood offer drastically different levels of long-term fence-post performance. Pressure-treated wood, which boasts both durability and affordability, ranks high among the top choices. Also commonly used—and considerably more expensive (although prices vary by region)—are beautiful, naturally resistant species like cedar, cypress, and redwood. All contain resins that forestall the harmful effects of pests and moisture. Other species, including spruce, oak, and pine, may be used with confidence only if treated beforehand with a brush-on preservative (look for copper naphthenate on the list of ingredients). Generally speaking, it’s wise to opt for darker, denser heartwood over younger, lighter-colored sapwood, because heartwood harbors better defenses, particularly against wood-boring insects. Finally, no matter what wood you select, be sure that you’re buying lumber labeled as suitable for in-ground applications.

 

Setting Fence Posts - Fence Post Detail

Photo: dreamstime.com

DON’T Make Postholes Too Small
Building codes and ordinances in your area may stipulate a legal depth and diameter for fence-post holes. If not, conventional rules of thumb offer a reliable guide. Typically, in part to ensure that posts lodge below the frost line, experts call for a hole deep enough to submerge the bottom third of the post below ground. For a six-foot-tall post, therefore, you would dig a hole two feet deep. The ideal diameter, meanwhile, should measure three times the width of the post. So, for a standard 4×4, the ideal hole would span twelve inches across. It’s important to note that fence-post holes must be flat-walled and barrel-shaped, maintaining a consistent diameter from top to bottom. If you use a regular shovel, you’ll end up with a cone-shaped hole. Instead, make quicker and easier work of the task by opting for a posthole digger (available for rent at your local home center). Otherwise, use a clamshell digger, which will be slower going but equally effective, particularly if you’re working with rocky soil.

 

DO Employ a Base Gravel Layer
If a fence post fails without any sign of a pest infestation, it’s likely that the failure was caused by moisture that rotted the wood over time. To help slow such deterioration, add pea gravel or crushed stone to the bottom of the posthole. Once you have added gravel to a depth of three inches or so, use a piece of scrap lumber to tamp down the layer. Next, pour an additional three inches of gravel into the hole, tamping down a second time. This simple measure goes a long way toward helping rainwater drain freely into the subsoil. It works so well, in fact, that in mild climates, builders sometimes elect to set fence posts with gravel alone. While that approach makes sense in certain situations, for a lasting installation, experts are more likely to specify a combination of gravel (for drainage) and concrete (for much-needed stability). One type of concrete works particularly well in such applications—rapid-setting concrete like category favorite CTS Rapid Set Concrete Mix.

 

DON’T Ready the Wrong Amount
True to its name, rapid-setting concrete doesn’t delay. In fact, CTS Rapid Set Concrete Mix sets in only 15 minutes. That being the case, it’s only practical to plan your approach. First, consider the size of the posthole in relation to the concrete yield. A standard 60-pound bag of CTS Rapid Set Concrete Mix yields approximately 0.5 cubic feet, so depending on the volume of your hole, you may need to prepare multiple bags at once. Just be careful not to mix more concrete than you can put in place in 15 minutes, before it begins hardening. After you determine how much concrete to prepare, proceed to combine the mix with water, adhering to the precise ratio printed on the package. Continue mixing for two or three minutes until you’ve achieved a smooth, lump-free consistency. At this point, with the post set in place, you can begin filling the posthole with concrete. Pack the concrete to a level slightly above the surrounding soil. Here, to prevent pooling, trowel the concrete so that it slopes away from the post. Double-check that the post hasn’t fallen out of level, then let the concrete harden.

 

DO Apply Caulk to Each Fence Post
After only an hour, CTS Rapid Set Concrete Mix will have hardened completely. You might consider the job done, but to further safeguard the fence post against rot, there’s one more important detail to address. Begin by inspecting the area where the post juts out of the hole. Do you notice a seam? Left as is, this seam could invite water to become trapped in any slivers of space between the wood and the concrete. Over time this moisture could lead to rot—but this scenario isn’t inevitable. After all, there’s a simple means of sealing the opening—caulk. Be proactive: Once the concrete has hardened, go ahead and apply exterior acrylic latex caulk directly to the seam, all the way around the post. (Alternatively, you can use any silicone caulk that adheres to concrete.) Be forewarned that the accumulated effect of freeze-thaw cycles may cause the seam to widen, so you’ll probably need to recaulk every now and then.

 

DON’T Neglect to Do Due Diligence
Be responsible. Before getting underway with your project, consult with municipal officials to confirm that your planned fence doesn’t deviate from any specifications of relevant building codes or ordinances. Some localities enforce strict regulations. Also, as you would for any project that involves digging deep down in the dirt, dial 811 (or visit call811.com). Do this about a week before you plan to start the work, so the utility company will be able to come and mark the approximate location of any lines that run under your property before you begin digging. Make no mistake: Digging can be downright dangerous if you don’t know what lies a foot or two below the ground. As long as you give a wide berth to any buried lines, you should be perfectly safe. As for the posts themselves, a little regular scrutiny and maintenance will help ensure a long life for your fence. Inspect your posts at least once a year, ideally in spring or fall, and reapply paint or stain as necessary to protect the wood and keep your fence looking its best.

Setting Fence Posts - Rapid Set Concrete Mix

Photo: ctscement.com

This article has been brought to you by CTS Cement | Rapid Set. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


How To: Get Rid of Caterpillars

Try these easy DIY pest solutions to rid plants of pesky caterpillars and take back control of your garden greens.

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How to Get Rid of Caterpillars in the Garden

Photo: dreamstime.com

A love of gardening often goes hand in hand with a hatred toward the pests that pervade the fruits of your labor, both figurative and literal. While backyard gardens attract some “pests” that are actually beneficial to the ecosystem, they also appeal to a number of creepy crawlers that are detrimental to the plants, including caterpillars. It’s these small critters’ big appetites that leave frustrated homeowners looking for their demise. Luckily, these tried and true, all-natural methods can help homeowners regain control of their lush landscape once more.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Bucket
- Liquid dish soap
- Rubber or gardening gloves
- Broom handle
- Bacillus thuringiensis
- Molasses
- Garlic
- Vegetable oil
- Birdhouse

How to Get Rid of Caterpillars

Photo: dreamstime.com

Hand-Pick Your Least Favorites
When it comes to caterpillar removal, the fastest way to address the problem is by hand—that is, by gloved hand. Fill a bucket about halfway with hot water and a couple of tablespoons of mild dish soap, pull on a pair of rubber or canvas gardening gloves, and head out to your garden to do a different kind of picking. This time, you’ll want to lift caterpillars from the leaves—checking all of the undersides, where caterpillars are known to hide—and drop them one by one into the bucket to drown. The protective hand gear will ensure that you aren’t stung by the spines on some varieties of caterpillar as you handle them, like the saddleback. While this method is the most proactive, it also may require repetition to remove the entire population.

Empty the Nest
A more aggressive way to attack the problem—literally—is to destroy the caterpillars’ nest. You’ll often find these silk-spun homes hanging from tree limbs. Simply punch your implement of choice (either a long sharpened stick or broom handle work well) into the nest itself, then spin and scrape along its interior to remove all of its inhabitants. Afterward, dispose of the nest and its contents in a bucket of warm, soapy water to drown still-living caterpillars.

For the best chance of success, attack the camp early in the morning or late at night to guarantee that the majority of the caterpillars will be in the nest. While immediately effective, this method may also require a few rounds should any remaining caterpillars rebuild their home.

Poison the Hungry Caterpillars’ Food
Homeowners who aren’t interested in hunting and handling these pests can opt to administer the hands-off—and hand-down most effective—extermination solution, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). This naturally occurring soil bacteria kills caterpillars in a matter of days by destroying the lining of their stomachs. Simply dust its powder or mist its liquid form directly onto your garden plants and wait for the caterpillars to get hungry. Better yet, apply without any worry about negative side effects: Bt is completely safe for the plants, their pollinators, pets, and humans. The bacteria is only toxic to caterpillars, as well as some moths and worms who’d like to munch on your greens. Stock up at any local garden shop, and reapply after a week or two if your infestation still exists, as your first application would have broken down in direct sunlight and rainfall.

If you’re not ready to shell out for caterpillar control, you can mix up a home remedy to get the job done. For plants, a regular spray of a molasses solution (1 tablespoon molasses, 1 teaspoon dish soap, and a liter of warm water) or a garlic solution (three crushed cloves of garlic, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon dish soap, and a liter of water) will deter insects from munching.


The Dos and Don’ts of Pressure-Washing

Pressure washers—impressively efficient for cleaning your home's exterior—can cause more harm than good if misused. To speed through your cleaning chores without damaging any surfaces, heed these best and worst practices for pressure-washing.

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Hyde Pivot Nozzle Wand for Pressure Washers - Cleaning a House Exterior

Photo: hydetools.com

It’s tough to get excited about outdoor cleaning projects when you’d rather be at the lake or on the golf course. Fortunately, the right time-saving tools can help you squeeze both your around-the-house tasks and recreational activities into a single weekend. Refreshing a dirty deck, cleaning mold from patio furniture, removing packed mud from tire wells—all these can be done more quickly and efficiently when you break out a pressure washer. This handy machine uses up to 80 percent less water than the average garden hose while packing more than 50 times the power!

But not all pressure washers are equal, nor is one suitable for every outdoor chore. And it’s important to use this tool properly to ensure satisfying, damage-free results. Whether you’re in the market for a powerful, game-changing cleaner or you already have one in your home-care arsenal, make note of these best and worst practices so you can be sure to get the most from this lean, mean cleaning machine.

 

DO Prep Before Starting

Without an adequate water supply, your pressure washer will fall short of your expectations for efficiency. First, test the water flow from your hose by timing how long it takes to fill a five-gallon bucket. If it takes two minutes or less, you’re good to go; longer than that indicates that there’s not enough water flow to operate the washer. Once you’ve determined that you have sufficient water flow to feed your pressure washer, clean out its inlet filter and check that the connections are secure wherever the tool attaches to a hose or accessory, such as the twist-on Pivot Nozzle Wand from Hyde Tools, which facilitates easy maneuvering during cleaning chores.

 

Hyde Pivot Nozzle Wand for Pressure Washers - Cleaning a Pergola

Photo: hydetools.com

DON’T Underestimate Its Power

A pressure washer’s biggest strengths—speed and power—make this tool as dangerous as it is efficient. Case in point: The water stream from even those models with psi’s on the lower side is forceful enough to cut through human skin! Save yourself and your property from harm by putting on safety goggles, gripping the wand tightly to avoid recoil when the pressure kicks in, and starting on the lowest pressure setting. Work in sweeping motions so that you’re never concentrating the tool’s power in one place for too long—and always aim the nozzle away from people, pets, and your prize peony bush.

 

DON’T Use One Nozzle Tip for Every Job

You can fit a pressure washer with a variety of nozzles that produce everything from wide-spray patterns to narrow streams so you can better harness the water for the job at hand. Rule of thumb: The more narrow the spray, the more force it delivers. A wide, 40-degree nozzle works well for general washing, such as loosening dirt on redwood or cedar decking, cleaning siding, and rinsing outdoor furniture. A 25-degree nozzle tip will tackle dirt and grime on concrete and other types of masonry. Zero- or 15-degree nozzle tips concentrate intense pressure on a small area, making them most useful for removing stubborn stains from iron.

 

DO Adjust Your Spray’s Angle for Best Force

When stubborn stains require maximum cleaning power, you want to keep the pressure washer’s nozzle perpendicular to the grimy surface. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, it is—until you need to reach the underside of a patio table or the siding along the top of a house. Fortunately, the problem-solving Pivot Nozzle Wand from Hyde Tools eliminates the need to bend or overextend for these harder-to-reach areas. Each of its models—the 18-inch wand for electric pressure washers and the 28-inch one for the heavier-duty, gas-powered machines—features extra control via an adjustable nozzle. A simple twist of the handle rotates the spray within a 90-degree angle so you can direct the force of your pressure washer’s stream over, under, or around any dirty object. No more squatting, stretching, or straining to achieve the appropriate spray angle.

 

DO Ease Into the Job

A blast that is too direct can damage even those surfaces you’d expect to hold up well to a washing, so you always want to start with a light touch. Take, for instance, siding: Pressure washers excel at cleaning most types, but stand too close and you risk blasting off some of the paint or ruining softer wood like cedar. For best results in pressure-washing, position yourself 10 feet away from the surface you’re cleaning, turn on the water, then step forward until the spray is just forceful enough to remove dirt.

 

Hyde PivotPro Water Wand Washing a Car

Photo: hydetools.com

DON’T Use a Pressure Washer for Everything

Even with extreme care and lowest pressure, not all items are suitable for pressure-washing, particularly if they already show signs of wear and tear. For example, while most automobile paint jobs can withstand strong spray, a thin clear coat or scratched exterior should be cleaned using lower water pressure. To tackle this and other similar outdoor chores, disconnect the pressure washer from your garden hose and swap in a HYDE PivotPro™ Water Wand, which features a detergent reservoir and an adjustable nozzle to save you from unnecessary exertion and back-bending contortions. Plus, different PivotPro™ models come equipped with handy, interchangeable brushes attached to the front end. The Boat & Auto kit includes a soft-bristle brush, a spindle brush for cleaning wheel rims, and a microfiber-pad that will pamper your car’s exterior while you remove dirt and road grime.

 

DO Master the Correct Washing Technique

Caked-on gunk comes off more easily if you first soak the surface, with or without detergent, and let it sit for a few minutes. When using detergent, wet from the bottom up, using sweeping horizontal strokes to prevent streaks caused by runoff. To rinse, do the opposite, working from the top down so you don’t miss any cleanser.

 

This post has been brought to you by Hyde Tools. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Solved! What To Do About Mushrooms in the Lawn

Clear up a recurring cluster of mushrooms out in the yard with one of these three lawn care strategies.

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Mushrooms in the Lawn - How to Get Rid of Mushrooms

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Q: After every rain shower, I find mushrooms popping up all over the lawn. What can I do to get rid of them and keep them from growing back?

A: You’re not alone in the fight against fungi: Lawn mushrooms are a fairly common landscaping problem, particularly in locations with high moisture and low light. Fortunately, those that pop up in your lawn from time to time tend to be harmless, and sometimes beneficial. They break down organic material in the lawn, deposit nutrients into the soil, and help your soil retain water with their pervasive root systems. But if you don’t like the looks of them—or if you have children or pets who you think may nibble—you can manage them. Most are fairly easy to eradicate; even a persistent recurring cluster can be eliminated, though it may require a more labor-intensive solution.

Mushrooms in the Lawn - Mushroom Growth

Photo: dreamstime.com

Remove each mushroom at its base. You can pull them individually by hand, cut each with a knife, or simply mow over the whole lot with the lawnmower. Be sure to remove them as soon as you see them sprout, though, otherwise they’ll have just enough time to release spores to plant and grow new mushrooms. For the same reason, you don’t want to dispose of them in your compost. Instead, throw them into a plastic bag and tie it tightly before discarding it in the trash. If you choose to mow mushrooms over, pick the pieces up and discard them into a bag immediately.

Reduce excessive moisture and shade in your lawn. Fungus occurs naturally beneath the grass more often than you see mushrooms; those toadstools don’t become visible among blades of grass until conditions are favorable—that is, damp and dark. To make your yard less attractive to these eyesores, first improve its drainage with the help of a lawn aerator. Available to buy or rent, this lawn and garden tool pulls narrow, cylindrical plugs of soil out of the grass every couple inches, allowing better air circulation and drainage. Adjusting your usual lawn care routine can also keep your grass drier; water less frequently (only 1 inch of water per week) and mow more regularly, as short grass dries out more quickly than long grass. Still see mushrooms cropping up in a shady corner of your property? Trim and/or thin nearby tree branches so that more light can reach the lawn, thus making the environment less agreeable for mushroom growth.

Clear out any organic material. Fungi feed on decomposing organic matter, from dead tree roots to grass clippings. Discourage it from sticking around after you’ve removed the spore-bearing mushrooms by reducing its food source. Start by catching grass clippings whenever you mow rather than leaving them on the lawn, and use a rake periodically to dethatch your lawn in the areas where you see mushrooms. If the fungi are feeding on organic material submerged in the soil—like dead tree roots, old mulch, or wood that was discarded during home construction—you’ll need to dig that out as well to stop the constant upcrop of mushrooms. Your best shot at a complete removal is to dig the soil out beyond the affected area, 12 to 18 inches deep and about 2 feet outside of the mushroom cluster. If you think it’s more work than it’s worth, not to worry: Once the fungi have devoured all of that submerged organic material, it—and the mushrooms—will disappear for good.

Mushrooms in the Lawn

Photo: dreamstime.com


Buyer’s Guide: Lawn Sprinklers

Think the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence? You might need to invest in a better sprinkler. Check out our suggestions to help you keep up with the Joneses.

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Best Lawn Sprinklers

Photo: dreamstime.com

While your yard may take its fair share of work to maintain and manicure, it can actually be pretty easy to keep it from browning. The key to a lush green lawn is selecting and investing in a reliable lawn sprinkler. Hook nearly any of today’s models up to your garden hose or water main, in the case of underground systems, and the bulk of your work is done—the most effort required on your part might be moving the sprinkler across your lawn. Here, we’ve got the break-down of the wide variety of models on the market to determine which type of lawn sprinkler is best for you and your property. Once you have a better understanding of what you’re looking for, take a stroll through several high-ranking recommendations that will keep things greener on your side of the fence—not the other side.

Know your sprinkler types. Generally speaking, lawn sprinklers fall into six categories, ranging from immobile to actually roaming in order to cover the full property. Consider the size and style of your lawn, the climate you live in, and how much water you want to conserve as you decide which type of system best meets your specific needs. Here’s a cheat sheet:

• Fixed or stationary sprinklers vary in design and reach, but each connects to your hose and sprays water in the same pattern over the same area until moved. Typically only able to cover a radius of 5 to 15 feet at a time, this type is best for small yards and gardens.

• Oscillating sprinklers use a row of multiple openings to disperse water in a semicircular spray. The sprinkler head—as well as the resulting fan of water—then moves from side to side, so your irrigation covers a larger area than most stationary models.

• Rotating (or rotary) and impact sprinklers both spin 360 degrees as they release water. The former typically has two or more arms that spin, while the latter (sometimes known as an impulse or pulsating sprinkler) spews water from a single jet, clicking as it turns its full rotation. These impact sprinklers often boast the largest range of water distribution.

• Sprinkler hoses are, as they sound, essentially rubber hoses with small perforations lined along the top that emit a controlled spray. The length and flexibility of these models work perfectly to water long, narrow, and even irregularly curved patches of grass since they stretch out over your property like a vine.

• Travelers or traveling sprinklers roll through your yard (garden hose in tow) in a programmed pattern, kind of like a miniature lawnmower—except, of course, watering your grass rather than cutting it.

• In-ground sprinkler systems take the guesswork out of watering your yard by operating on a set schedule. While there’s more effort upfront to map out, dig up your property, and connect a new system to your water main, the strategically placed sprinkler heads can be programmed to emerge from the ground and water the lawn at preset times.

Timing is everything. With water restrictions in place all over the West Coast and conservation an all-around hot topic, at-home irrigation can require extensive planning—and a trusty alarm clock—to keep personal water usage in check without drying out your property. Luckily, plenty of popular lawn sprinklers come equipped with features to make sure your thirsty lawn gets just the right amount of refreshment. Perhaps the most hands-off approach to watering, automatic timers on in-ground sprinkler systems allow you to schedule exact watering plans (when, where, and how much water) in advance. For above-ground sprinklers, the most comparable features to look for include flow timers, which monitor and limit the amount of water you use to irrigate your lawn per minute, and the auto-shutoff on traveling sprinklers, which ensures that your mobile unit stops watering after completion of its pattern. By selecting a model with one or more of these features, you can more closely control your water usage—and some time you might otherwise spend worrying about when to turn these lawn sprinklers on and off.

 

HEDGE YOUR BETS

After thoroughly comparing lawn sprinkler reviews from consumers and publishers alike, we’ve rounded up three of the most highly-rated models available today to help you find one that fits your home’s needs and wallet’s budget. Check out the best lawn sprinklers for greener grass this summer:

 

Best Lawn Sprinkler - Gardena ZoomMaxx Oscillating Sprinkler

Photo: amazon.com

Gardena ZoomMaxx Oscillating Sprinkler on Weighted Sled Base ($56)
Extensive research conducted by the team at The Sweethome led them to name this oscillating Gardena model as best lawn sprinkler for its highly desirable combination of durability and versatility. “No other model could water such a wide range of yard sizes and shapes with such a consistent amount of water at different distances and settings,” the web team determined; given its ability to maintain a consistent flow with no dry spots or flood risks at 1-, 5-, 10-, 15- and 25-foot ranges, the proof seems to be in the perimeters. Available on Amazon.

 

Best Lawn Sprinkler - Rain Bird Easy-to-Install In-Ground Automatic Sprinkler System

Photo: homedepot.com

Rain Bird Easy-to-Install In-Ground Automatic Sprinkler System ($129)
If you’re interested in an in-ground system that you can “set and forget,” you may want to check out the easy-installation model garnering the highest customer satisfaction ratings out of all its peers available at The Home Depot. The manufacturer’s first professional-grade system designed for homeowner installation includes six high-efficiency, 360-degree rotary sprinkler heads and attaches to an outdoor faucet rather than a water main valve for installation in five steps, or a single afternoon!  Available at The Home Depot.

 

Best Lawn Sprinkler - Nelson 1865 Raintrain Traveling Sprinkler

Photo: amazon.com

Nelson 1865 Raintrain Traveling Sprinkler ($50)
Send this classic yellow tractor on a mission to irrigate any and all parts of your lawn with its easy-to-guide path throughout your property using its hose as a track. The traveler moves at one of three speeds across your lawn, up and down hills, and covers up to 13,500 square feet with water thanks to its two adjustable sprinkler arms. With the ability to automatically shut off wherever you specify along its track, this traveling sprinkler proves to be the next best option to a full-fledged, in-ground system. Available at Amazon.

See? No matter what the song says, it is easy being green. Happy watering!


Genius! Raid Your Recycling Bin for Free Garden Tools

Don't shell out any cash for spades, shovels, or plant markers—you already have what you need to make your own! Rummage through your recycling bin to save on supplies with this clever 5-minute DIY.

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milk-jug-diy-garden-tools

Photo: afarmofyourhome.com

When A Farm of Your Home‘s blogger Melissa Barrett first moved to Australian city of Perth, her backyard was a tiny dirt plot with a few barren vegetable beds. But as she settled into her new home, a gardening obsession took root, followed by a greenhouse, a frog pond—even an apiary for visiting bees! Soon, the ever-expanding garden became a family project, and sometimes there weren’t enough tools to go around. Her two littlest helpers lost spades and shovels and bickered over what was left. Instead of wasting time hunting for her long-gone tools, she raided her recycling bin for a free (and briliant!) fix.

Armed with a Sharpie and a pair of scissors, Melissa traced and cut four spades and more out of emptied milk and juice jugs. Lightweight yet durable, the plastic containers boast an easy-carry handle and a wide, square base—two features that lend themselves to a variety of functions, given a little imagination. Melissa took advantage of the rounded corners and, depending on the jug’s shape, traced a scoop for a spade or shovel out of the side with the handle. Incorporating the hollow handle into the design provided a sturdy grip for her newest DIY digging implement. With the remains, she turned the uncut bottom into shallow seedling trays and the unused sides into a handful of inch-wide plant markers—easily doubling her supplies without spending a penny or driving to the store. For gardeners on a tight budget, getting resourceful with recyclables is an eco-friendly way to save some green.

Every homeowner knows that planting, weeding, and keeping the garden looking great means getting a little dirty. Even the best spades and shovels rust and break, so why not cut out a few spares?  It’s as Melissa says: “As long as we drink milk, we’ll have a supply of little scoops and shovels, tags, and trays.”

FOR MORE: A Farm of Your Home   

milk-jug-diy-garden-tools-2

Photo: afarmofyourhome.com

DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

All of the Best Hands-on Tutorials from BobVila.com
Get the nitty-gritty details you need—and the jaw-dropping inspiration you want—from our collection of the favorite projects ever featured on BobVila.com. Whether your goal is to fix, tinker, build or make something better, your next adventure in DIY starts here.


DIY Lite: A Beginner’s Guide to Building a Wooden Planter Box

Make a planter box from scratch this weekend and you'll be seeing green in even the tiniest outdoor space this season.

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DIY Planter Box - How to Build a Planter Box

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Some lucky homeowners with enough property for a large plot of land to be dedicated garden space; for the rest of us, a planter box is the next best way to enjoy lush greenery or an edible garden. A long narrow planter can energize smaller outdoor spaces like terraces, balconies, and even the occasional cramped patio—proving that you definitely don’t need a big backyard to surround yourself with nature. And because, as its name suggests, this outdoor installation isn’t much more than a cube without a top, it’s one weekend project well worth DIYing. Check out this design for a stylish wooden planter box that requires little more than beginner woodworking skills.

 

DIY Planter Box - Supplies

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- 1×6 lumber, 8-foot lengths (2)
- 1×2 lumber, 8-foot lengths (2)
- 1×4 lumber, 8-foot length (1)
- 1×10 lumber, 8-foot length (1)
- 2×2 lumber, 8-foot length (2)
- Ruler
- Handsaw
- Sandpaper
- Wood stain (3 colors)
- Brush
- Wood varnish
- Wood glue
- Power drill
- 1-1⁄4-inch­ screws (72)
- 2-inch metallic brackets (4)
- Medium-duty plastic sheeting (5 feet by 8 feet)
- Staple gun

 

STEP 1

DIY Planter Box - Step 1

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Start by cutting all the lumber pieces to the right lengths. We designed a 4-foot-long planter in order to facilitate cuts that leave (almost) no wood waste.

• To make the planter’s front and back, cut your 1×6 lumber into four 4-foot-long pieces, your 1×2 lumber into four 4-foot-long pieces, and 1×4 lumber into two 4-foot-long pieces.
• To make the sides, cut your 2×2 lumber into four 2-foot-long pieces and your 1×10 lumber into two 2-foot-long pieces.
• To make the planter bottom, cut two 43-inch pieces from the remaining 2×2 lumber and one 46-inch piece of the remaining 1×10 lumber.

Sand all of your cuts to remove splinters. Then, following the directions on the can, brush wood stain over all of your cut lumber. You can stain the wood slats all using the same color and allow the varying widths to provide subtle texture to the finished planter, or opt for multiple shades as we have to create higher contrast and an interesting striped finish. We used Chocolate on all 1×2, 2×2, and 1×10 slats; Mahogany on the 1×4 slats; and Early American on the 1×6 slats to match the style of our DIY outdoor bench. Follow with two coats of varnish (best to use a one specifically appropriate for outdoor use) to protect the stained wood.

 

STEP 2

DIY Planter Box - Step 2

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Once all of coats of stain and varnish dry, you can start by building the planter sides. Lay your two 2-foot-long 1×10 planks out in front of you, and place a pair of 2-foot-long 2×2 pieces on top of each; set the rest of your cuts to the side for now.

Position one 2×2 flush with the top edge of the first 1×10 length and the other flush with its bottom edge, then affix with wood glue. After the glue dries, turn the 1×10 piece over and pre-drill holes through its flat backside, four spaced equidistant along each 2-foot-long edge. Fill in with 1-1⁄4-inch­ screws. Glue and screw the second side together in the same manner.

 

STEP 3

DIY Planter Box - Step 3

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Next, screw the metal brackets to the 2×2 pieces you’ve secured. Their positions will designate the bottom of your planter, determining exactly how much room your plants have to take root. To hold enough soil for climbing plants, we placed the brackets 18 inches from the top of the planter. If you only plan to use your planter for flowers or herbs, though, 10 inches will be more than enough.

Flip the L-shaped bracket so that its bottom attaches to a 2×2 and its opening faces what will be the ground when you later stand the planter; pre-drill holes and screw into place. Repeat until you’ve attached each of the four brackets on a 2×2, careful to make sure they are each the same distance from the top—you don’t want the bottom of your planter box to be uneven!

 

STEP 4

DIY Planter Box - Step 4

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Turn each side of your planter box so that the brackets face one another. Then, join the sides by screwing the ends of your two 43-inch pieces of 2×2 onto the exposed ends of these brackets. Later on, those two pieces will support the bottom board.

 

STEP 5

DIY Planter Box - Step 5

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Your project is really taking shape now. To construct the planter box’s front and back, start by laying your 4-foot-long pieces across the box’s framework, working top-down until you cover the brackets and 2×2 pieces that connect the box’s sides. Alternate the planks in a repeating pattern of 1×6, 1×2, and 1×4 until five are in place. (Hint: Your 1×4 won’t repeat.)

Next, lift the top plank, apply wood glue to the sides of the planter box that will be covered, and press the plank back in place. Continue down the front, making sure you don’t leave any space between the boards. Then, go back and provide extra security to these wooden slats with screws: one at each end should hold the 2-inch-wide pieces, and one in each corner for the rest.

Repeat the same process for the back side.

 

STEP 6

DIY Planter Box - Step 6

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

The last step in creating the planter box’s structure is placing the bottom board. Cut out a 2-inch square out of each corner on your 46-inch-long 1×10 plank so that it can fit snugly inside what you’ve built so far. Apply glue to its bottom along each of the longer sides, and place the board into the planter so that it rests on the 2×2 ledges. Turn the planter box over to screw from the bottom along the front and back edges to steady the board.

 

STEP 7

DIY Planter Box - Step 7

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Your planter box is so close to complete—but if you want it to last many seasons packed with watered soil, you’ll want to line its inside with a sheet of plastic before calling it quits.

Lay a 5-by-8-foot sheet of medium-duty plastic so that its longer sides meet the inside of your box’s front and back. Lift the tarp and pull it as taut as you can behind the front side of the planter; expect the sheet to bunch a little in each corner, considering that it’s actually longer than your planter box. Use a staple gun to fasten it in place along the top plank. Drape the plastic sheet across the interior of the planter and affix the top edge of the other side (the back). Now pull one of the plastic’s smaller sides taut so that you can staple it to the 2-foot side of the planter; repeat on the opposite side.

It doesn’t matter if there are creases or that the entire bottom of this sheet looks like a misshapen bag, so long as you completely cover the inside perimeter of the planter box, separating the wood from the soon-to-be pit of soil.

 

STEP 8

DIY Planter Box - Step 8

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Once is dry, you’re all set to add soil and root your favorite greenery. The planter box’s 10- by 46-inch plot and 2-foot height make it flexible enough to hold anything from a vegetable garden to trellises layered with fast-growing vines for privacy. The sky is the limit for you and your budding greens!

DIY Planter Box - Completed Project

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

DIY Planter Box - Outdoor Garden

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Ama is a DIY addict and the creative mind behind Ohoh Blog. She likes home decor, lighting, and furniture projects that may involve painting, sewing, drilling…no matter the technique! Whatever she has on hand is inspiration to create, and fodder for her serious addiction to upcycling.


How To: Propagate Succulents

All it takes is one of these pretty plants—and this smart guide—to yield a bounty.

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How to Propagate Succulents

Photo: dreamstime.com

Want to juice up your space, indoors and out, without spending a bundle? Think succulents! From the rosettes of Echeveria x imbricata (also known as “hen and chicks”) and spiky, striking Agave americana to good old aloe vera and jade plants, succulents’ plump leaves and lush colors are perfect for both landscapes and flowerpots. These easy-care beauties are also very forgiving of neglect. Perhaps best of all, you needn’t go out and buy a bunch: With a few simple materials and a bit of know-how, you can propagate plenty of new plants from a single succulent—one you may already own—using leaves or cuttings. Get started now!

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Cactus soil
- Planting containers
- Succulent plant
- Pruning snips or sharp scissors
- Paper towels or small dish
- Spray bottle filled with water

How to Propagate Succulents - Budding Succulents from Leaves

Photo: dreamstime

Propagating from Leaves

STEP 1: Remove leaves.
Gently wiggle a few leaves from the bottom portion of the stem, and then twist until they pop off. Aim for clean break, with no rips in the leaf. Discard any wounded leaves—they won’t root. Lay leaves on a paper towel or in a small dish, and set them in indirect sunlight for one to three days, until the ends have dried out and calloused over. Resist the urge to plant leaf ends before drying—they’ll absorb too much water and rot.

STEP 2: Add soil and water.
Put some cactus soil (available at nurseries, or make your own from potting soil or peat moss plus sand and perlite) in a small container. Lay dried leaves on top and mist them with water until soil is moist. While full-grown succulents don’t require much water, leaves do—so check them often and re-mist as soon as the soil dries. Continue until small roots and a baby plant form at the cut end of the leaf. Every variety is different, so this may take anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple months. Be patient!

STEP 3: Transplant.
Once a healthy baby plant has formed at the base of the leaf, transplant it into its own container. Fill this second container with cactus soil and make a small indentation with your finger. Put the roots of your newly propagated plant, with the leaf still attached, into the indentation and gently cover with soil. Mist it with water and place in a sunny spot. The original leaf will eventually shrivel and die, and you’ll be left with a brand new succulent to enjoy.

Propagating from Cuttings

STEP 1: Take a cutting.
Using a pair of pruning snips or sharp scissors, cleanly cut the top few inches off of a “mother” succulent. Allow the end to dry out for one to three days until it callouses over.

STEP 2: Push to plant.
Simply push the calloused end of the cutting into a pot of cactus soil. Mist to water, place in full sun and let it to grow.

STEP 3: Keep the stump.
If your original succulent was small to begin with, after removing the bottom leaves and taking the top few inches for a cutting, you may be left with just a stump. Fret not! Simply put it in a sunny window, and once the cut end callouses, mist it with water. Eventually, new baby plants will begin to grow around the stem at its base.

While not every leaf or cutting you take will root successfully, chances more than half will. Before you know it, you’ll be the proud propagator of multiples, with enough plants to decorate your home, patio, and garden, and even have some to offer as gifts.

DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

All of the Best Hands-on Tutorials from BobVila.com
Get the nitty-gritty details you need—and the jaw-dropping inspiration you want—from our collection of the favorite projects ever featured on BobVila.com. Whether your goal is to fix, tinker, build or make something better, your next adventure in DIY starts here.


Weekend Projects: 5 Creative Designs for a DIY Chicken Coops

Looking to build a shelter for some fine feathered friends? These egg-cellent coop designs are so stylish that you may soon want to move into your backyard.

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Scientific studies certainly support the nutritional benefits of the incredible egg, but what they don’t detail is what a difference it makes to pick the eggs fresh from your very own backyard birdhouse. If you’re looking to increase your household’s self-sufficiency starting with this breakfast staple, you might consider keeping your own chickens. Whether you live in tight quarters with a modest backyard or on acres of land with room to roam, there’s a DIY coop that’s got you covered. Check out these five safe, stylish, and fully-functional shelters first for the inspiration you need to get building.

 

COTTAGE CHARM

DIY Chicken Coop - Design from Redeem Your Ground

Photo: redeemyourground.com

Home to no fewer than eight chickens—Rosie Mae, Henny, Ginger, Merabeth, Maizie, Polly, Marigold and Hazel, to be exact—this 7-foot by 11-foot coop is a miniature palace for the feathered octet. Built adjacent to a chicken run and attached by a chute, the airy, window-centric coop even features a bunny hutch for the hens’ four-legged furry friend. The builders and bloggers behind Redeem Your Ground anchored the structure with posts set in Quikrete and topped it with a tin roof, lending some old rustic charm to an impressively secure project.

 

GREEN LIVING

DIY Chicken Coop - Design from Landscape+Urbanism

Photo: landscapeandurbanism.com

Constructed with plywood and held firmly together with T strap hardware, this carefully-framed chicken cube features a high ceiling and fully hinged wall on one side to allow the humans in for easy cleaning. Even more impressive than the hens’ amenities might be the slanted, greenery-stuffed eco-roof, which eliminates tough calls on whether to keep a garden or keep chickens. The blog Landscape+Urbanism walks you through the thoughtful design and build processes of the two-story coop and roof in a six-part series. The end result: A simply genius two-in-one sustenance structure housing four happy chickens and plenty of herbs.

 

FARM FRESH

DIY Chicken Coop - Design from The Creative Mom

Photo: thecreativemom.com

Built to resemble a big red barn, The Creative Mom‘s whimsical chicken coop (made in collaboration with The Home Depot) boasts 32 square feet of space—enough room to hold up to a dozen chickens. This cute country coop is smartly designed, too: well-ventilated in the eaves to keep air flowing throughout and prevent overheating during the summer months. It also features roosting bars, a nesting box with an open top, and basket hook for easy egg-gathering before breakfast.

 

A BEGINNER BUILD

DIY Chicken Coop - Design by Ana White

Photo: ana-white.com

With less than $100 and only a few hours’ time start to finish, Ana and Jacob White assembled this wooden A-frame chicken coop from scratch. Perfect for DIY enthusiasts with limited time, tools, and/or budget, this sweet and simple coop gets the job done with T-strap hinges for easy access and plenty of chicken wire to let the light shine in and keep everything sunny side up. Just pay attention to the angles on this project: 60-degree cuts at the top and 30-degree cuts at the bottom of the frame to secure it into an isosceles triangle.

 

PLAYING HOUSE

DIY Chicken Coop - Design by Dukes and Duchesses

Photo: dukesandduchesses.com

When your kid gets ready to fly the coop and leaves you with a well-loved, outgrown playhouse, as the Dukes and Duchesses know, there’s no better way to repurpose it than to find new tenants. A great design project for a larger plot of land, this DIY conversion includes a spacious chicken run for protection, whitewashed interiors to repel insects and prevent bacterial growth, plus plenty of smart chicken-specific renovations (right down to a closed water system made with a bucket and some watering nipples). Where children once played pretend, a family of chickens now live the dream.

DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

All of the Best Hands-on Tutorials from BobVila.com
Get the nitty-gritty details you need—and the jaw-dropping inspiration you want—from our collection of the favorite projects ever featured on BobVila.com. Whether your goal is to fix, tinker, build or make something better, your next adventure in DIY starts here.


How To: Stake a Tree

That newly planted member of your yard may need some help to grow up big and strong.

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How to Stake a Tree - Backyard Sapling

Photo: istockphoto.com

Most new trees do just fine on their own. In fact, the movement they experience from normal wind and weather helps these yard young’uns develop strong root systems and solid trunk girth. In several scenarios, however, it’s beneficial, even necessary, to stake a tree during its first growing season. If your new tree is planted on a slope or in an open area, or if it will be exposed to very strong winds, it may require some temporary stabilization. A young tree with a dense crown of leaves but a disproportionately small root ball may also require a stake. But trees must be staked properly, or damage—even death—can occur. This guide will help your new tree become a truly upstanding citizen!

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Tree stakes (2)
- Sledgehammer
- Tree staking straps (2)

How to Stake a Tree

Photo: istockphoto.com

Get the Goods
You’ll need two stakes per tree, plus straps to tie them to the trunk. To DIY your own stakes, taper the points of 6- to 8-foot long, 2×2 pieces of lumber, and use wire housed inside rubber hosing for ties. Or you can purchase stakes, made of treated wooden posts, and nylon or rubber ties from big box home improvement stores or nurseries.

Drive the Stakes
Place each stake on opposite sides of the tree, about 15 to 18 inches 
away from the trunk, ensuring they will clear the root ball. Drive each stake into the 
ground with a sledgehammer, about 18 inches deep.

Pick the Right Spot
In general, to anchor trees exposed to high winds or on slopes, the straps should be placed about 18 inches above the ground. In the case of a tree with a flimsy trunk that can’t support itself, place the straps about 6 inches above the spot where the tree can stand upright.

Support the Trunk
Tie the tree to each stake with flat tree staking straps, so that they are taut but not so tight that the tree cannot move. You want to let the tree sway a bit in the wind, which encourages strong root development. Flat straps provide a large surface area to distribute pressure and avoid damage to the trunk. Be especially cautious if using homemade wire-in-hose straps: Stretch them too tight and they’ll injure the sensitive tissues just under the bark, essential for taking up water and nutrients.

Untie in a Timely Manner
Remember, 
 you should only stake a young tree for one growing season, until the root system has had a chance to spread out and set in. After removing the straps, you can leave the stakes in the ground as protection from foot traffic and lawn equipment if they don’t pose a hazard. If you choose to remove the stakes, dig gently around the base of each one to loosen it, being careful not to disturb the roots. Keep your straps and stakes if they are still in good condition to be used for the next tree you plant that requires staking.

With good care and a little luck, your new trees should bring joy to your family and beauty to your property for generations.